After the events of last weekend in Croke Park hurling pundits of a certain vintage will recall that the last draw in an All-Ireland hurling final took place in 1959.
Once again Kilkenny was at the heart of the action although on that occasion Waterford provided the opposition. 1959 was also a landmark year in the life of the Church. Far from the hallowed grounds of Croke Park a new Pope, who took the name John XXIII, made a surprise announcement on January 25 that year. It was an announcement that would prove formative in shaping the course of the Church’s history.
Pope John’s plan to the hold an ecumenical council took his advisors in the Rome, it seems, by surprise. Outside Rome word of this event received little attention. However Pope John was perfectly aware of the need for the Church to continually be renewed and strengthened so as to embrace the challenges of the contemporary world. Reflecting his desire to see the Church continually respond to this change he is reputed to have famously said that those who work in the Church “are not museam keepers but gardners helping things to grow”.
Three years later, after much preparation and planning, Pope John’s dream became a reality when the Second Vatican Cuncil opened on 11th October 1962 - fifty years ago this year. At the Council, Church leaders from around the world gathered in St Peters in Rome to begin work on John XXIII’s vision for ‘aggiornamento’, the renewal of the church, opening up the windows to let in the fresh air of the Spirit as the Church continued its path through time and history seeking how best to communicate the gospel message to the modern world.
The Council provided the Church with the means necessary to dialogue with the modern world and other Christian and non-Christian peoples. The aftermath of the Council was a period of excitement and there was certainly a sense of renewal and enthusiasm as the participants left Rome and returned to their Church communities. However fifty years after the Council it is clear that much of the Council’s visions has been unrealised. On this the anniversary of the opening of the Council an opportunity is being provided to reflect once again on those events of fifty years ago but more importantly to consider how the work of the Council can assist us today to become greater participants in the life of the Church.
Once again Waterford and Kilkenny are involved. In a joint undertaking by the Diocese of Ossory Adult Faith Development team and the Pastoral development Office of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore a series of gatherings have been arranged at which four speakers, on four evenings, will mark the anniversary of this great event. Entitled Renewal & Responsibility these landmark events are aimed at exploring the responsibility that all members of the church have in fulfilling their baptismal calling to be full and active members of the Church community in the twenty first century.
The first of these nights will take place on Monday next 17th September at at 7pm in St Patricks Parish Centre, Loughboy, at which the very famous American Theologian Dr Richard Gaillardetz speak on the topic of We are the Church: how Vatican II gave the Church back to the people. Gaillardetz has many books and articles published on the Church and the Council, he is an entertaining and thought provoking speaker and the evening, which promises to be very exciting, is open to all. Further details on those speaking on the other nights is available at ossory.ie.